Louisiana's legal system is a bit different from that of other states. It is a "mixed jurisdiction" state, meaning that it uses more than one legal system. Louisiana's law is a mix of common law (the system used elsewhere in the U.S.) and civil law (the system used in some European countries.)
The differences are sometimes superficial – probate is termed "succession" in the Bayou State – and sometimes complex, but the role of a Louisiana estate executor is essentially the same as it is everywhere else.
Definition of an Executor of a Will
When a testator creates their will, they name a trusted person or entity to be the executor. That person is responsible for managing their assets after they die. In Louisiana, an estate executor must be at least 18 and of sound mind. They cannot be of bad moral character or be a convicted felon under federal or state law.
If the executor is a company, it must be authorized to perform an executor's duties. If a testator chooses a nonresident as executor, that person must appoint someone in Louisiana to act as a resident agent to accept legal documents on their behalf.
Duties of an Executor of a Will in Louisiana
A Louisiana executor is responsible for managing all aspects of a deceased person's estate. They take the decedent's place in controlling these assets until they are distributed and the estate is closed. Some of the actions the executor is responsible for are:
- Locating the will and filing it with the court to begin the Louisiana probate process known as succession.
- Obtaining copies of death certificates to send to financial institutions, such as banks and creditors to notify them of the person's death, and to government agencies to stop benefits, such as Medicare and Social Security.
- Setting up an estate bank account in the estate's name to pay bills and taxes owed by the decedent.
- Protecting assets for the estate's heirs.
- Listing or inventorying all assets of the estate.
- Transferring ownership title to the decedent's heirs.
- Selling the estate's assets to pay debts or taxes owed by the decedent.
- Distributing the decedent's assets to beneficiaries.
- Appearing in court to face any challenges against the will.
Protections for an Executor of an Estate
Louisiana executors have certain protections:
- They do not have to pay estate expenses from their own pockets.
- They can elect not to accept the position as executor.
- They can resign at any point during the succession process.
- They can work with a succession attorney to complete estate management duties.
Things an Executor Cannot Do
Executors must act in the best interest of the estate's beneficiaries and manage the decedent's assets accordingly. They may not carry out estate duties before the will's creator dies, and they may not sign an unsigned will. If the will's creator dies before signing, the state considers the will invalid and manages the decedent's assets under the laws of intestate succession.
An executor cannot start to manage estate assets before the court appoints them to the position. They also cannot:
- Sell the testator's assets for less than the listed fair market value, except when the estate heirs agree.
- Change the will's provisions.
- Prevent beneficiaries or loved ones from contesting the will.
What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will?
When someone dies without a will in Louisiana, the court will appoint a person to manage their estate. This person is known as the estate administrator. Anyone, including a surviving spouse or heir, can apply for this position with the court.
Louisiana requires administrators and executors to take an oath and post a bond equivalent to 125 percent of an estate's value. These measures are in place to ensure that the entity managing the estate acts responsibly when handling its assets.
While Louisiana intestacy laws determine who gets what assets when there is no will, the administrator's role is much the same as an executor's. They are responsible for managing the estate, paying the decedent's debts and taxes, and distributing the estate's remaining assets.
Compensation for Executors and Administrators
Louisiana law allows for the reasonable compensation of executors and administrators during the probate process. For executors, according to the will, and for administrators per agreement between the decedent's spouse, legatees and beneficiaries.
If payment is not set for either the executor or administrator, they can receive at least 2.5 percent of the amount of the estate's inventory as compensation. However, the court may increase that amount if it feels it is inadequate when considering the succession's circumstances.
Executors and administrators receive payment with the approval of the estate's final accounting, but the court may allow them an advance payment any time during the estate administration. If the court appoints a provisional administrator or an administrator of a vacant succession (an attorney appointed by the court if no qualified person has petitioned to be an administrator) they, too, have the right to fair and reasonable compensation.
Meaning of Independent Executor
Some wills state that an executor can act as an independent executor. This means they can take specific actions when completing a succession without getting the court's approval beforehand. An administrator's actions are also approved by the court, but they can be an independent administrator if the estate's heirs sign an agreement that allows it.
Even if an executor or administrator is independent, succession proceedings are still required to get the court's approval for their confirmation. Their responsibilities are the same as those of an executor or administrator – they inventory assets, pay the decedent's debts and distribute the estate's assets.
- NOLO: Louisiana Restrictions on Who Can Serve as Executor
- Ciolino & Onstott: What Is a Succession?
- Greenwald Law Firm: What an Executor of a Will Can and Cannot Do
- Louisiana Legislature: Chapter 10. Compensation of Succession Representative
- Scott Vicknair: Estate Administrators Have Important Responsibilities in Louisiana
- My Louisiana Succession: Louisiana Estate Administration and Independent Administration
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.